"Green" Make-up: Great Ingredients But Still Working on the Packaging

BlogHer Original Post

I frequently get asked about what I do for plastic-free makeup, and honestly I haven’t had the best answer. I continue to use the products that I already had and generally only replace them with plastic-free alternatives once they are used up. But after reading about lead in lipstick and other unhealthy chemicals two years ago, I checked out all the cosmetics I owned against Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database and ended up doing a huge purge of most of my makeup.

What I kept: one combo eye shadow/liner stick, two colored lip gloss sticks, and one twist blush. Pretty much everything else went to the Hazardous Waste facility. No kidding. And since I rarely wear makeup, except for when being photographed or on special occasions, these products, packaged in plastic, have lasted all this time.

Still, I worried about the ingredients in the makeup I had left. What we put on our skin is as important as what we eat. It all ends up inside our bodies. So during my eco-friendly spending spree a few weeks ago, I came across a shop in my neighborhood called 100% Pure selling personal care products and cosmetics that the company states are made without “synthetic chemicals, chemical preservatives, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, harsh detergents or any other unhealthy toxins.” What’s more, their makeup is colored with fruit pigments rather than synthetic dyes or minerals.

Awesome! Except at first glance, all I saw were plastic containers. Hmm… I thought. Pure on the inside. Not so pure on the outside. Still, I persevered, and found, at the back of the store, a few metal containers of lip color and blush.

100% Pure Makeup

Terrific. I can at least replace this less than healthy stuff:

Conventional makeup

However, once I got my purchase home, I realized my mistake. The lip color container was lined on the inside with plastic that I had been unable to see in the store:

Conventional makeup

I don’t know if the chemicals from the container can leach into my lip color, and I wear makeup so infrequently that it probably doesn’t matter. But, as we know, plastic has other impacts, especially once it enters the environment as waste. And is the metal from the tube actually recyclable if lined with the stuff? I doubt it.

What’s more, I do realize that there are lip gloss alternatives that come in plastic-free pots. But I just don’t like the idea of sticking my germy fingers into them and then touching my mouth. I have a hard enough time remembering to wash my hands as often as is recommended, which is probably why I get sick so often. 

The blush container, however, does seem to be made from all metal and glass:

Conventional makeup

So, being me and not one to quietly accept the status quo, I wrote to 100% Pure to ask about their packaging choices and was pleasantly surprised to receive a response from CEO Ric Kostick almost immediately:

from Ric Kostick
to Fake Plastic Fish
date Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 11:10 AM
subject Fw: Natural cosmetics in synthetic packaging

Hi Beth, Thank you for the letter! I LOVE your passion!

YES! This is one of our company-wide initiatives for 2010 is to move toward more sustainable packaging. We have lotions launching in biodegradable tubes, we are also testing paper packaging. We constantly put pressure on our supplier factories to invest in these technologies…I totally agree that we need alternatives to plastic, there is too much plastic in the world and all the phthalates (and probably other chemicals) are not good for our bodies, nor are they good for the animals!! We are PASSIONATE about helping animals!

We’ll keep you updated as we roll out our eco-friendly packaging.

Keep up your mission!

Very Best,

Ric Kostick, CEO
Purity Cosmetics
100% PURE

And a few days later, I received another email from Brand Ambassador Melanie Isett adding to Ric’s message that the company is

in the active process of sourcing new packaging for new items that we are planning to launch this March/April. Until recently, there was very little innovation and few resources available in eco-friendly packaging that was high quality (without leakage issues) and durable to last through the use-up life of the product. Fortunately due to demand, there are now quality resources emerging in eco-friendly packaging. We plan to integrate this packaging into our line with new products and look to transition our existing assortment over time.

And a few days after that, Melanie followed up with information about what the company is doing to reduce waste right now:

  • We use pre-cycled packing materials – we pick up popcorn, peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes, etc. from nearby businesses and we reuse the packing materials that was sent to them
  • When we do buy packing material, we only buy post recycled and reyclable / biodegradable materials
  • 100% Pure products are packaged in post recycled plastic and glass and printed with biodegradable soy ink [I didn't see the glass containers. I'll have to check that out the next time I'm in the store.]
  • And I am work from home, full-time which is super eco-friendly!

I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of packaging the company comes up with and reporting on it in the future. My suggestion: If you’re using toxic cosmetics, want to make the switch sooner, and can’t find plastic-free alternatives, go ahead and try 100% Pure. Otherwise, wait until the Spring when there are more choices for eco-friendly packaging. In the meantime, do check out their web site. It’s pretty cool.

Now, I’d love to hear what sustainable cosmetics you have found and even whether you feel the need to enhance your face in the first place.

Beth Terry: attempting to live plastic-free since 2007 and blogging the heck out of it at FakePlasticFish.com. Follow her on Twitter or friend her on Facebook.

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